Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Torpor.n. A state of mental or physical inactivity.
As the stinkingcold slowly dries up (thank you for your concern by the way) I find myself disinclined to take photographs or to sit down and write stuff. 
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, meanwhile here is January's sampler.



Thursday, 26 January 2012

We are all a bit poorly here. We have contracted what is commonly know as astinkingcold.
George is over the worst and back at college. Charlie has taken it to work with him but the rest of us are at home.

We have been doing jigsaws,

eating bought biscuits and licking elderberry lollies.

And wondering if we should start drinking Ovaltine.
I've never had Ovaltine (or Horlicks), I'm more of a hot toddy girl.  I was, however, able to make Katie and Tom fall about laughing with my rendition of the Ovaltiney song. I swear I sound exactly like Celia Johnson.

And Tom has just shown us his impression of a fainting goat. A sure sign that he is recovering.
I'm afraid the video isn't very good quality but it made us laugh like hyenas.

Despite all the jollity here, I am in no mood for cooking. Spaghetti and cheese is about all I can manage tonight.



Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Today it is a drippy day both inside and outside.
Inside I have a teenager with a drippy nose lying on the sofa (for which he is too big), and clutching a mug of lemsip.
Outside there are raindrops; far more photogenic.

Today we are two years old.
I think two is old enough for an FAQ page. 

The most frequently asked question directed at me is this one
What's for tea?
To which the answer is one of the following;
sausages/roast chicken/food
This question makes me tired. It really does, particularly as it is asked by each child in turn. If I get really irritated by it Charlie joins in too.

As for FAQs directed at The Quince Tree me rather than the mum me they are these:

Where can I buy a quince tree?
I bought mine from a specialist fruit nursery like this one.
What variety is your quince tree?
I think it is Vranja but it could be Meeche's Prolific. I'm sorry I can't be more definite. I've looked at pictures of both and it looks like both. Both are good culinary varieties.
I have planted a quince tree, when will it produce fruit?
I think mine had been planted three years before it fruited. It produced just one fruit and then the year after that about a dozen and the year after that fifty odd. Since then it produces 200-300 which is, as they say, more than enough.
Where can I buy quinces?
Waitrose stock them in season -October/November. They used to stock Turkish quinces but last year I noticed they were English. Middle Eastern groceries may have them too, or you could try farm shops. 
How do I cook quinces?
Have a browse through these posts.
What do quinces taste like?
They taste like quinces. I don't think they taste like any other fruit and why should they? Apples don't taste of pears after all. They are often described as honeyed but to me they taste of quince.

Can you put a link on your blog to my financial services site/ my weight loss miracle pill site/ my cookery site?
No I can't. I don't have any advertising on my blog.

Can I write a post for your blog ?
No thank you. This blog is my own, my precious.

What camera do you use?
I use a Canon EOS 550D. Most of my pictures, particularly food pictures, are taken with a Canon EF-S 60mm Macro lens. Sometimes I use a Canon EF-S 55-250mm zoom lens.
All the pictures on the blog prior to 10th December 2010 were taken with a Canon IXUS point and shoot, a jolly good little camera.
I use the photo-editing software that came with the camera to crop and sometimes lighten photos. I don't use any photography equipment at the moment.

How do you find the time to do all that cooking?
I don't have paid employment. Cooking and running my home is my work. Besides you make time for the things you enjoy which is why I cook more than I clean.

Will you write a cookbook one day?

And the most frequently asked question of all is
Can I be your lodger?
No. Sorry. Not even if you do all the washing up. But thanks for the compliment!

Fried Egg and Chorizo Sandwich


Monday, 23 January 2012

This went down really well with my lot this evening.
Inspired by this.

I don't really enjoy frying eggs. They spit at me, and the white of one egg invariably remains inexplicably translucent and jelly-like while that of its neighbour is firm and opaque. I generally end up flipping it 'over easy' American-style, but I don't really like them like that. I like a firm white and a runny yolk.
I may dislike frying eggs, but I do love eating them when the mood strikes. As it did today.

Use a good crusty roll. Mine call themselves 'pains rustique'. They were pretty big so I cut them in half crossways and served each person one half.
I used salami style chorizo which I frizzled briefly on a hot frying pan before frying my eggs.
The children had just chorizo and egg in their sandwiches, but for me and Charlie I put a layer of rocket on the bread followed by a roasted red pepper (from a jar but you could roast your own peppers, and if I were making this in the summer when UK peppers are available I would do that), before adding the chorizo and finally the egg.

Quick, easy and fabulous.

Doing Porridge


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Comfort and cosiness is the theme of this month's Making Winter project which will be hosted by Silverpebble starting on Monday.
When I saw Charlotte's lovely photo of a steaming bowl of porridge I was reminded how comforting a bowl of porridge was on a cold January morning. It's also an extremely quick breakfast especially if you are only making it for one or two people. I've never seen the point of instant oats, or pre-measured individual servings. Buy a bag of plain porridge oats and save yourself packaging and money.

To make a bowl of porridge for one person put 3 tablespoons of oats in a small non-stick pan with 6 fl oz of milk or water (or a combination of the two). Turn the heat to medium-high and it will start to bubble within a minute or two. Let it bubble for 2-3 minutes more, stirring often. Turn the heat down if it seems to be bubbling too fiercely. Add more liquid if it gets too thick.
Scrape it into a bowl and drizzle with golden syrup, honey, a sprinkle of brown sugar or salt if you are a traditionalist. You could also try one of these ideas.

This was a really delicious combination. Just dollop a spoonful of mincemeat on top of your porridge.

Nutella and hazelnuts
A dessertspoonful of Nutella stirred into the porridge and topped with chopped hazelnuts.

Banana and coconut
Add a tablespoon of desiccated coconut to the oats and cook them together. Then stir in half a mashed banana and top with the other half. Finish with a sprinkle of coconut and some brown sugar.

Add a teaspoon of black treacle and a teaspoon of golden syrup to the porridge as cook along with a pinch of ground ginger, a pinch of cinnamon, and a pinch of mixed spice. Finish with a swirl of black treacle.

Blueberry, pecan and maple
Put a handful of blueberries in to the porridge as it cooks so that they burst and release their juices.
Then sprinkle on some chopped pecans and pour on a little maple syrup.

Other ideas

Apple (or quince) purée and cinnamon
Dried cranberries, flaked almonds and honey
Chocolate chip and banana
Nut butter and brown sugar
Pear and ginger
Just jam

In need of some comfort this winter?
Make yourself a bowl of porridge.

A Multitude of Small Delights


Wednesday, 18 January 2012

When I was teaching in a Birmingham primary school I had the good fortune to be sent on a course at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The course was one day a week for several weeks and was a very welcome change from the chalk-face*. The theme of the course was the exploration of ways in which the natural environment could be used to spark children's creativity. Or some such. All I remember was that it meant one day off a week, a lie-in, as the Botty Gardens were nearer to my home than school, and that it was jolly good fun.

One day we were given a matchbox each and asked to go into the gardens and fill it with as many different colours as possible. Each colour had to be natural and we weren't allowed to pick anything from a plant.
We did this activity in the spring and so were able to find petals of varying hues, but even in January, in a tiny garden it is possible to find a surprisingly wide range of colours.

This odd little task, pointless you might say, was curiously restorative. Spending time alone, outdoors, listening to the birds, smelling the damp earth, feeling the fresh air on my face whilst engaged upon some purposeful activity felt good, and as I arranged my colour samples I was reminded of the quotation from Baudelaire which Alice has on her blog;

A multitude of small delights constitute happiness.

*Chalk  and blackboards have, apparently, been replaced by interactive whiteboards and other new-fangled gadgetry.

Winter Weekend


Sunday, 15 January 2012

 At last it feels like winter.

The frost has remained on the ground in our little garden all weekend.

A single quince still clings to the tree.

After I took my photos I retreated to the warmth and comfort of my kitchen to cook some winter food.

Why not make a meal of mash?
I fried some onion slowly in butter until sweet and melting. Then I added a couple of cloves of crushed garlic.
It was all smelling very delicious. While this was happening I had a pan of potatoes on the boil -lots of potatoes. When they were cooked I drained them, dried them over a low heat and mashed them with butter and milk. Then I stirred in the onion and a heap of grated cheddar.

I spread it in a baking dish, scattered more cheese on top and put it in the oven to brown.
It was good.
Some crisply cooked bacon stirred into the mash would have made it really good.
Bacon makes most things better.

For supper this evening I made a simple chicken cobbler. I browned a chicken breast for each person in some butter and put them aside. Then I added a tub of my vegetable hash (a chopped onion would work just as well) and a clove of garlic to the pan. After a few minutes I added a tablespoonful of flour and stirred it into the oniony mixture. I added about 15 fl oz of chicken stock a little at a time stirring well with each addition to make a creamy sauce. Then I put the chicken back in the pan along with a couple of chopped carrots and some mushrooms. When it was all bubbling I sloshed in a slug of white wine and seasoned it before putting the lid on and putting it in the oven for half an hour at 180°c (160°c fan).

While it was in the oven I made the cobbler topping. I used an easy drop biscuit recipe which I often make with cheese to serve with soup.
Combine 9 oz plain flour, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 cup of grated cheese ( cheese is optional -fill an 8 fl oz measure to obtain a cup).
Rub in 2 oz of butter and then stir in 8 fl oz of milk. The mixture will be sticky.

When the chicken has had its half hour in the oven stir in a handful of frozen peas and a handful of sweetcorn then dollop spoonfuls of the cobbler dough onto the chicken stew and put back in the oven without the lid at 220°c (200°c fan) for about 15mins.

If you want to serve these drop biscuits dry then dollop them onto a greased baking tray and bake for 10-12 mins. They are so easy and so quick to make and just the thing for a wintry lunch with soup.

Evening Skies


Friday, 13 January 2012

We had more of the same in the evening.
It's difficult to get a tree-free shot looking west.

Morning Skies


Thursday, 12 January 2012

There's always something to lift the spirits, if you look.

Pictures taken at about 8 am this morning.

Right Now I Am....


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Watching the birds. 
I had to stop putting food out for the birds after we began getting visitors of the grey whiskery, long-tailed variety. Since then we've had few bird visitors so it was a treat to see this robin enjoying a bath.

Loving my new socks. Katie is loving hers too.
We are 'sock buddies' apparently.

Eating lots of good, healthy things. 
Last night spiced fish fillets with this mango salsa, carrot salad, sweetcorn and green salad. No baked potato for me, not enough room on my plate with all that veg.
Absolutely bloody starving later; had to eat two pieces of bread, butter and jam.
Finished it off with a glass of damson gin for good measure.

Reorganising my cupboards to accommodate the new mugs my children found in their Christmas stockings. If you have been paying attention you will be able to work out which mug belongs to which child.

Spending a fortune on bunches of spring flowers which had hardly any scent...

and died four days later.

Sidse Babett Knudsen stars as prime minister Birgitte Nyborg Christensen in the Danish drama series Borgen.

Watching new Danish telly on BBC4. This is Borgen, which is a political drama all about coalition government. It may not have as much knitwear in it as The Killing did but don't let that put you off, it is excellent. 
Oh, and there's Sherlock too, of course, which is perfect in every way.

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